The Guilt Factor

Each morning, Monday to Friday, for the last 10 minutes of my commute to work just before I walk into the office building, I try and FaceTime the boys for a chat, especially on mornings where they are asleep when I’m leaving the house and I haven’t seen them yet. Alex usually blows me kisses and babbles very important things at me. Rian, more often than not doesn’t want to talk. This morning though, when I was having chats with Alex, in the background he said: ‘ I don’t want to talk to Mama on the phone, I want to talk to her here!’.

For a moment I considered turning around and going straight back home again, giving him a hug and telling him I’ll never leave him. But I can’t, because I have to go to work – and I want to go to work too – and at the end of the day, the bills need to get paid. So I felt the usual pang of guilt that I usually feel a few times a day, except a bit worse than usual because he had said that, and finished my gurgley chat with Alex and headed towards my desk, feeling pretty crap about myself as a mother.

If I had the freedom to choose, I don’t think I would choose to be a full time stay at home mother, I just know it wouldn’t be for me. Part time would be my ideal option, because at same time, I want to be with them all the time too. It’s that very tricky, ever elusive, perfect balance.

Guilt is something I became familiar with very early on, in fact, since the start of my first pregnancy. We are IVF parents, very very lucky ones at that, our treatment worked. So it was a bit of a surprise to me that I didn’t particularly enjoy being pregnant – extremely grateful yes, of course, but pregnancy for me was months of nausea, vomiting, swollen feet, extreme heartburn… ok my hair got a bit thicker and softer and my skin looked nice and almost glowy (possibly from the hot flushes!) for a while but even that catches up with you after the baby is born and your hair falls out and you’re left with these mad sticky outy bits all over your head while it grows back to normal again…!! Aaand breathe…! So no, if I’m honest, I didn’t enjoy being pregnant for the most part. Appreciative, yes, and lots of it I did love and cherish – the feeling of Bump moving around or kicking, but not really any of the rest of it.

Anyway back to the point… so I didn’t enjoy pregnancy, it was tough. I felt guilty about that because of our IVF and I thought of all the women who would swap places with me in a heartbeat because I used to be that woman too. And of course the moment they’re born you’re guilty all the time, am I doing this right, did I do that wrong?

When I went back to work after Rian’s maternity leave, the guilt was immense. How could I leave him every day, why was I working for a major chunk of my wages to pay someone else to see all of his ‘firsts’? And it only got worse, after I had Alex I thought I would be prepared for how it would feel to go back to work, but in fact it was worse again because what I wasn’t prepared for was Rian being old enough now to ask me, after a year of being home, ‘Mama, where are you going? Why won’t you stay here with me?’

It was very hard. I questioned myself a lot at the return to work last year. Why am I doing this?? Oh yes, then I remembered, I just don’t have the choice.

So why do we do this to ourselves? Is there a way to come to terms with this guilt or are we just destined to never be happy whatever the situation is – whether we give up work and stay at home, or if we choose not to stay at home?

I thought a lot last year about whether I wanted to give up work, assuming we could afford it and I could stay at home. It would be tight, but I think if we cut back enough we could probably get by on one wage. And is it even fair to assume that it would be me who stays home, what if their Dad wanted to stay home? I admit that thought didn’t even occur to me at the start. But even if I did stay home, I think the guilt would still find me anyway, and make me think about other things – can we afford to save for their college fund? Can we afford to give them all the things we want to?

And the other thought is – really the main reason I don’t want to give up my job – what will I do when they’re older and not as dependent on me? What if I want to go back to work then, when they’re off to school, and I have a five or six year gap on my CV – it’s hard enough going back after maternity leave,  your confidence is shaken a lot, or at least mine was. So a big gap, for me, would be very intimidating. So is it selfish of me to not want to be in that situation, to not want to sacrifice my career? Does that mean I’m a bad mother? And the guilt factor starts again.

Being a working mother, it sneaks up on you on a regular basis. When a work commitment clashes with an event at their creche or playschool, and we’re faced with missing it. Guilt. At Rian’s playschool Sport’s Day back in June, I took the day off work. Within the first ten minutes, three other mothers had mentioned to me that they hadn’t realised that our childminder, who they see every day dropping off and collecting Rian, wasn’t in fact his mother. Ouch.

Recently, our childcare situation  changed, and I was forced again to consider all of these points. I really struggle to come to some sense of peace with the fact that I’m gone all day from them. Today was their first day in a creche – Alex in particular has never been minded outside his own home until today – and I wasn’t there to drop them off. Guilty. They’re fine of course – the staff are amazing and sent me little updates and photos of them happily playing away, but my guilty mind goes into overdrive and I wonder what will they think of these decisions I’m making now when they’re all grown up? Will they think I’m selfish? Will they resent the fact that I ‘chose’ to leave them with someone other than me while I ‘chose’ not to give up my career? Ultimately, I suppose I’m thinking – how will they judge me? Am I ruining their childhood?!

I don’t know how to make the guilt go away, but I have decided to make some rules for myself.

  • I am not a bad mother. I am doing my best, along with everyone else. Yes, I go to work for myself because I enjoy it, but also of course so that I can give them everything I possibly can not just now but later in life too. I’m doing my best, and I have to tell myself that my best IS good enough.
  • Don’t focus on the negatives – instead I will focus on the times I am there. Their little faces when they see me coming through the door each evening, and the fun we can have all weekend. It makes me more grateful and appreciative of those times.
  • Most importantly of all: I make it my mission that they know they are loved. I know they know. And once they know that, I know I’m not failing completely.

Whatever way I look at it, mother guilt is here to stay, no matter what type of mother you are. There’s no point in questioning why we beat ourselves up over it, but in the end all I can suggest is that we get off our own backs, get off our own cases, and make the most of whatever situation we’re in. Guilt is not a choice, but how we deal with it certainly is.

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Kids Menus… WHY?

{Also published on The M Word }

Right. Ask anyone who knows me, I’m not one for giving out about anything really. I’m actually renowned for not giving out, ever. They’ll probably put it on my gravestone – Here Lies Jen (The Legend); She Never Gave Out Once.

Another trait I am partial to now and then, is sarcasm.

So yes, I’m about to start giving out about something that has irritated me since they day Rian was old enough to eat actual food in any establishment that sells food. Kids Menus.

WHAT is the STORY with children’s menus?! In a time where childhood obesity levels are at a crisis point, why are kids only ever given the choice of – Yes you’ve already guessed it – chicken goujons, burgers, fish goujons (sorry how do you spell Goujon? Gougon? Neither look right and both give me a red line typo alert….ok I just googled it and it’s goujon. Right-click, Add To Dictionary.)

While Googling how to spell Goujon, I saw some lovely looking ones appear in the search which obviously now makes me want some, cos to be fair to them they are very nice, but also it provided me with the nutritional value of what you’re eating in a 100g serving of them. That’s about 6 pieces it says. Anyway, it says that it’s 27% of recommended fat intake, 31% of daily salt intake (sodium) – and then there’s the accompanying chips which google tells me, a medium serving provides another 26% of the recommended fat intake –  so just this meal alone and your kid is over half the daily recommended levels. I’m no nutritionist but I imagine I’m not even accounting for half of the other bad stuff involved – sugars, carbohydrates, etc. I only found out that much specifically because I couldn’t remember how to spell goujon.

SO anyway, here’s a little story of what usually happens to set off this regular irritation. To celebrate a family birthday a few months back, we booked ourselves for a nice meal in a very nice local Italian restaurant. It’s the sort of place where families are welcome, yet you would still want to be controlling the noise level of your mini humans if you get me. So I had the boys with me, at the time Alex was just gone one and Rian was just gone three. Alex will happily eat whatever he’s given and Rian is old enough now to choose what he wants himself. They produce the kids menu and here we go again, it’s the same old same old. Rian sees someone at the next table with a pizza so naturally he wants one too.

Meanwhile over on the adult menu I see their roast of the day is Beef. Bingo. It’s my turn to order. ‘Hi, the three year old wants a pizza with everything on it but actually if you bring the smallest size you have, or even half the smallest size, with peppers, ham and a tiny amount of cheese, with LITERALLY five chips please, that would be great. Now I mean literally FIVE CHIPS please.’ ‘No problem, Ma’am, five chips.’ He seems to have received the message, because from experience of highlighting my need of only five chips, never ONCE has that been the result. ‘For the one year old, I see there is roast beef today, can I just get a slice or two of that with– ‘ ‘I’m sorry, Ma’am, we can only serve full size portions of the main meals’. ‘………?!…………….Ok… give me a full size one then and I’ll just give him some of mine’.

Now firstly, why they cannot just slice a couple of slices off  the roast and cut it into smaller pieces is beyond me. Surely it is less effort anyway than frying up more chicken goujons? Secondly, when the dinners are brought to the table, low and behold Rian is delivered of a pizza twice the size of his head, smothered in cheese and oil, with considerably more than five chips. He must have misheard me and thought I ordered five hundred and five. Rian is delighted with life and hoovers them all before I can try and distract him and remove half of them, and Alex happily munches away on my beef and veg, because there was nothing at all suitable for him on his own menu, oblivious to my irritation. Why do I never get what I actually ask for?

I just do not understand why kids menus can’t simply be a smaller portion size of the adult menus. Apart from health related reasons, wouldn’t it be more cost effective? And if you still wanted to give them the odd treat, they could still have the chips and burger from the adult menu anyway?

I suggest we get rid of Kids Menus and just have Menus. Order what you like but at least give parents and kids a chance at healthier options being seen as the normal option for kids. Kids don’t know they’re not supposed to like vegetables until we more or less tell them this by providing them with these kids menus. We are actually teaching them that they shouldn’t like these foods by separating their choices into goujons and chips and burgers so they think that’s all they should be eating. It’s just so bizarre to me.

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

I’m not a health fanatic, I am constantly in a state of trying to lose about 5 stone myself, but it’s because I have spent years losing and gaining back weight and really learning about what I’m putting into my own body that I feel even more strongly about what we teach our kids from a very early age. I want them to understand their choices, not to simply say don’t eat this or do eat that, just know what it is. If you want a treat, that’s fine, everything in moderation as long as your overall efforts are the right ones.

I don’t want to come across as a killjoy either, I think my kids eat a good standard of wholesome food, at least we try our best anyway. We don’t use jars or processed foods as much as possible, but of course every so often they have ‘treat’ food as well. I absolutely do not want to appear as if I’m judging anyone here, but I just find it very irritating and extremely surprising that there simply isn’t a choice for kids. Its our responsibility to do our best for them, and to teach them to make the best choices for themselves in the future, but with no options at all, what hope have we got?

 

 

 

 

Introducing: STICKY. He lives here now.

Have you ever heard that family statistic, ‘2.4 children’ when referring to the average family size? I always thought the .4 part sounded a bit ridiculous. I mean, what’s .4 of a child?

But now I know. Of course it’s not a child. It’s the other thing that moves in when you have children, whether you like it or not. Whether it’s one child or ten. Congratulations, it’s your new housemate who goes by the name of Sticky.

Sticky McStickerson. Mr Sticky. Sticky McStickface. Sticky Fitzsticker- ok well you get the idea. Call it whatever you want, but Sticky is here to stay whether you like him or not.

Let us count the ways.

Sticky, the THING.

Well this one is fairly self explanatory. You can understand it most of the time, for example when our baby Alex who is 1 and a half, insists on eating everything with his hands, and refuses to go in a highchair. He just has to sit at the table like his 3 and a half year old big brother. God love him, he can barely see over the top of the table so he randomly paws around the general plate area til his chubby little hands grab some food and they shove it into his chubby little cheeks. It’s very cute. Until you notice the inevitable mess that creates, and then, the resulting stickiness.

The little hands flailing about, touching things. Making them Sticky, like a baby superpower Sticky Midas Touch.  It’s not so bad now, I have adjusted the area accordingly so it is well prepared with wipeable surfaces, his chair is protected and covered by an old tablecloth (because in my pre-child wisdom I bought CREAM COLOURED FABRIC CHAIRS. I know, I deserve everything Sticky has to give me. Oh I know!).

But when he hops down from his chair, still flailing Sticky hands, well, it’s every man for himself.  God speed, comrade.

And how can Sticky be a SMELL?

I don’t know, but it is. As soon as those babies arrived in our world, things started to smell Sticky. How many times have you found yourself getting that whiff, and knowing, you were about to encounter something Sticky? Or maybe you just got a whiff of something – in fairness it’s another skill you have to pick up while in the company of babies and kids. What type of nappy am I about to face? Take a whiff. What kind of puke did you just produce? Whiff. You’ll be in little doubt of what lurks ahead. What level of Sticky are we talking here? Whiff’ll tell you.

You’re not alone.

I don’t think it’s surprising when you realise that Sticky also has a unique SOUND. It can range anywhere from a mild generic suction type of Sticky all the way to your standard wet squelchy type of Sticky. I can determine a Sticky type from 100 paces, it’s a skill I have perfected. You can tell what Sticky encounter you’re about to embrace just based on the sound alone, whether it’s coming from under their little feet as they launch themselves towards you and your nice clean top that you’ve just put on, or the Sticky decibels emanating from their pudgy little hands as they clap along to whatever Disney song you’re listening to for the 45th time that day.

Let’s face it, how many times have you looked at something and wondered, ‘what on earth IS that?!’ Well now you know – it’s just Sticky. ‘Why does this feel wet?!’ It’s because of Sticky. ‘How did that get there?!’ Sticky put it there of course. Honestly, I’m starting to wonder if Sticky is more like an unwanted squatter more than a housemate now that I come to think about it in more detail!

But don’t worry, it’s not all bad. Some Sticky encounters you’ll barely even notice, or at least, barely even care about. Sticky presents himself in various forms of consistency, some are worse than others. At the start, I’ll admit, when you’re not used to Sticky it’s all a bit uncomfortable. Like being stuck in a lift with someone you vaguely know – well enough to have to force some crap small talk about the weather but not well enough to just ignore them. You just have to acknowledge Sticky, you’ll be informally introduced when your baby produces some scenario that results in Stickiness, but once you get used to eachother, it’s fine. Accept Sticky for what he is – he’ll ruin your clothes, ruin your furniture, cause you to keep a packet of baby wipes within arm’s reach at all times. But you will get used to eachother, and dare I say it, in a weird way become somewhat fond of eachother!

Resistance is futile. Sticky is here to stay – now you know about it, you can prepare yourself and your house accordingly.

Go forth soldier, and embrace the Stickyness!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Threenage Years

Let me start by saying, I feel slightly betrayed by my parenting predecessors. I got warned about things like sleepless nights, explosive nappies, teething, and the start of the tantrums, right up to the Terrible Twos. So you could forgive me for assuming that once we cleared those murky waters that it would be more or less plain sailing til the teenage hormones kick in.

NOT SO.

Let me introduce the Threenager. For those of you with first children under 3, or those of you lucky enough to be given children of relatively sound and logical reasoning minds, a Threenager is your worst nightmare of emotions all bundled up in one big knot lodged in the already unstable mind of a developing child. This recipe makes for very confusing times for everyone involved.

The most surprising thing about becoming a parent was just how much I have learned about myself. I used to wonder what sort of a mother I would be, promising myself I would definitely do this, and I definitely wouldn’t do that. What I wasn’t expecting was to be confronted with aspects of my own personality that I didn’t know about – and, honestly – that I don’t really like!

First up – turns out, I am not a patient person.

There is nothing, NOTHING more frustrating than trying to get a three year old to eat his dinner. It is a form of mental torture. ‘Eat your dinner….. yes haha I can see your snot; eat your dinner. No, I don’t know what kind of dinosaur that is or why he is purple, but eat your dinner. Stop licking things please, just eat your dinner. Yes, you do like it, you’ve eaten this dinner a million times, happily. EAT. YOUR. DINNER!’ … …..breathe. Repeat.

I’m sure this torturous experience must surely have been used on prisoners of war to try and break them. ‘Tell us what you know, or we’ll force you to convince this here Threenager to eat his carefully made, lovingly prepared nutritious meal.’ Ten minutes max would have done the trick. I’d have cracked anyway, in a matter of seconds! Just don’t make me try and reason with a three year old, anything but that!

Another factor in the Patience department is the sheer repetitiveness of the questions firing at you like bullets. Anything from your standard ‘Why?’ on repeat to questioning your driving skills. If we are stopped in traffic, for example ‘ Why are we stopped, why are you not driving, drive please, where are we going, why are we not driving, why are we stopped? ‘  All the way to ‘ Ok, who is driving, Mam are you driving? ‘ (he is still rear facing so can’t see which particular chauffeur is on duty ) – honestly it’s a constant interrogation designed to break you down. IT WORKS.

Temper.

It used to be easy enough to predict the temper tantrums, (not that you’ll ever understand them, LOL, silly you) –  but you can learn to predict what might kick them off. Like if you cut toast the wrong way, or if you peeled a banana the wrong way, or even if you just peeled the banana. Even if you only peeled it because they asked you to. Don’t waste your time thinking how unfair and unjust it is, just try and learn to go with it. Expect some random outbursts – once you learn to expect them that’s half the battle. Eventually you figure out the triggers of the tantrums, you even start to feel a bit smug about the fact you figured out what starts them. But then they go and change the rules again.

Sometimes all it takes is for you to walk into the room. ‘NO MAMA DON’T DO THAT OK?!’ ….’Ehhhhhh ookkkk’… and he’s off. Melt down.

Then approximately 4.2 seconds later they’re skipping up to you, hugging you telling you they love you and asking can they have chocolate for dinner. To be fair, I would love chocolate for my dinner too.

WTF you might wonder? Beats the hell out of me I’m afraid. I’m sure I wasn’t this bad when I was three; they must get it from their Dad…

Moving on – Ok, I’m just going to come out and say it: 3 year olds can be proper A**HOLES.

The main difference here between your Threenager and your Terrible-Two year old, is that the fear is gone. They don’t care what way you try and bribe them, or what you threaten to not give them. They just don’t care. In fact they’ll almost encourage you to challenge them just so that they can say it. NO!

The fear is gone and they don’t give a sh*t. It becomes a battle of wills. The worst bit is when they do it in a public place so the only weapon of armour you have is to glare forcefully at them and hope they comply. They don’t. (Side note, I’m not promoting fear as a parenting tool. I’m not for a minute suggesting anyone uses that to try and control behaviour! I just mean, they just do not care what toy they will no longer have, or what treat they will no longer earn for good behaviour. No fear!)

 

So yet again I find myself in a battle of wits with someone half my size. And half the time I seem to lose as well. To be fair, half the time I admire his tenacity, his unwillingness to just accept a situation, and I hope he fights what he perceives as unfairness with this level of passion throughout his life! But while he’s in Threenage mode, and while it’s me he’s fighting… it’s just so mentally draining!

Having a Threenager is often like carrying a mirror around, one that reflects not only a physical mini version of yourself or your other half, but one that reflects how you act, your mannerisms, things you say. I’ve asked myself ‘Where does he get that from?!’ when I hear a frustrated ‘Come ON, I don’t have time for this!’ directed at his 19 month old baby brother. Or when his Playschool teacher apparently told him ‘ We don’t shout “Jesus Christ!”‘, or my favourite, ‘Mama says it’s important to share’ when he sees anyone anywhere opening a bar of chocolate or a packet of sweets. Chancer.

So I find myself in a constant state of utter confusion, frustration and admiration all rolled into one, being around my Threenager.

However, I have come to the conclusion that it all comes down to picking your battles. This is as much a learning experience for me as it is for them. Don’t try and fight it, after much experimentation I find just to let them get on with it is the best method of defense in the almighty battle of wills. If they don’t want to eat their dinner, fine. If they want to wear some ridiculous combination of clothes, like a big woolly jumper on a hot day, fine. You know eventually they’ll eat when they’re hungry, and they’ll want to take off the big jumper when they get ‘too warmy’ as my Threenager says. The main mistake I keep making is treating them like I would treat a grown adult with developed sense of reasoning! They have none. They don’t know what these emotions are or how to use them. With this in mind, I highly recommend a read of this article which gives a nice insight to what is really going on in that three year old bundle of confusion!

And in the meantime, I shall continue on my quest of understanding my little Threenager and focus on the funny side of how his little mind works, the questions he comes out with and the little stories he tells and things he does. ‘Is that a deal?’ as he regularly asks after he has dictated to me how a situation will play out! Four isn’t too far away, there’s no cutesy little ‘Fournager’ type phrase to give me any sort of heads up about what lies ahead, is there…?

 

3yrold

 

(Thank you to my lovely friend Joanne for her brush lettering skills with this very apt quote I found online!)

 

The Chair

The Chair arrived before either of you did. I remember the day we picked it out, the day we went to do the Baby Shopping – the same day we had our 20 week scan with you, Rian, and found out to our immense relief that you were growing perfectly. We left the hospital clutching the miraculous scan picture of you, something we never thought we’d ever be able to hold at one time, and arrived at the baby shop almost giddy with disbelief that the seemingly  un-achievable,  impossible dream of parenthood was actually happening for us. Little did we know it would actually happen twice for us. Our frozen twins.

I sat in The Chair, at first just to get a bit of a rest while we waited for a shop assistant to become available. It’s tiring work growing a baby. Of course, the minute I sat in it, I was able to imagine hours of gently rocking you to sleep, and feeding you in it when the rest of the world was fast alseep.

‘We’ll take it.’

As soon as it arrived it became a little spot of peace and calm in the corner of your room. I used to sit there, with you in Bump form, and wonder what you might look like and who you might be. Would  you have hair and would you look like me? A boy or a girl? Tall like your Daddy? Wondering of what adventures lay ahead.

I sat in The Chair as I watched your Dad put together your cot. Laying out all the pieces on one side and the toolbox on the other. I read from the instructions with what bit goes where, with one hand on The Bump and felt you kick in agreement when we figured it out.

And one after the other, you both arrived. From the start, The Chair was where we sat, you and I, you and your Dad. Gently rocking away the sobs and cries from colic. Gently rocking, persuading sleepy little eyes to close and nod off. And gently rocking while we stared at your miraculous, perfect little faces and wondered, what do babies dream about? Breathing in the beautiful soft, sleepy, milky baby smell and wondering, how did you get here? Just how on earth did we get so lucky, twice?

How many nights have we sat in that chair together? Sometimes it felt like endless hours. Please go to sleep…please don’t cry…. please, please just sleep, even just for a little while! Some nights felt never ending, some weeks felt like decades. Sitting rocking in that chair, trying to figure you out. Wishing the teeth would hurry up and come, rocking, shushing, patting your back gently. Wondering would we ever see sleep again?  Feeling like surely  you were the only person awake in the whole world at that time, willing sleep to come.

Thinking about the early baby days and hours rocking in The Chair, and how they changed into less and less hours there. I imagine it like a video collage in time-lapse mode in my mind of us all moving in super fast motion in and out of the room, up and down from The Chair, the time whizzing by yet slowly passing at the same time. The video in my mind shows each of you starting off tiny, slowly growing bigger. Sitting in that chair at the start, resting on my shoulder with your head nestled into my neck and your tiny little legs only long enough to reach my chest. Whizz on a bit and your legs stretch all the way to my lap. Whizz on some more and your face still nuzzles into my neck, your little arms wrapped around me, but you’re almost sitting sideways now as there is nowhere else for your legs to go. You’ve grown so quickly.

I wonder now, the sleepless nights long enough ago now,  exactly why did I wish away those endless nights? All those beautiful baby snuggles, rocking together in the chair as I stared at your eyelashes and wondered at how they were so long. The two perfect little button noses, and those drooly little mouths twisting in various ways depending on what little dream you were having and what amount of wind you had in your pudgy little bellies after a feed. I could close my eyes right now and draw each little face perfectly, I have memorised them so well, all those hours of sitting and rocking in The Chair.

And only in the last week, for the first time in almost 4 years,  a change arrived. The Chair was made redundant, nobody needing to be rocked gently in order to fall asleep for the night. I sat on the other side of the room and looked at The Chair, and realised: I’ll never need to sit there again. I remember reading something a couple of  years ago about not realising when the last time you do something, is the last time you’ll do it. I didn’t know that my last time rocking a baby to sleep in The Chair would be the last time I did it. What would I have done differently?

I probably would have stayed there all night.

I’m that mother who feels a bit emotional packing away the baby clothes that don’t fit anymore, holding them up and wondering how either of you ever fit into them in the first place. Were you really that small? But there’s something different about saying goodbye to The Chair. It’s more of a permanent goodbye. It’s saying goodbye to an era, not just to a small section of time where you used to fit into a particular babygrow. It’s saying goodbye to a section of my life, a section that was longed for so hard. A section of our lives that we wondered if we’d ever get to experience, and we did. And it just whizzed by so fast.

The Chair was there for it all, from before we even met you both. It rocked us through the rocky parts of becoming new parents, and rocked us calmly through the most peaceful parts too.

I know when it’s not sitting in the corner anymore, that space will remind me that I no longer have two little babies, but will remind me of you both, our two amazing little boys.

 

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Before I Ever Met You

When I discovered I was going to be a mother, I sat and wondered about lots of things. Practical things like what things do we need to buy? What should we name you? HOW WILL I GET YOU OUT?!

But more than just the practical things. What would you be like? What kind of person would you be? Who would you look like?

What can I teach you?

But I never expected for it to work the other way around. What would I be like?

What do you teach me?

Before I ever met you, there was so much I didn’t know, things I didn’t know existed. Like the pure strength of the love I have for both of you. Imagine how it’s possible that you can love someone before you even meet them? You can sense and feel their life begin, and with it this amazing bond begins, with someone you’ve never even set eyes on. And then you both arrived bringing this amazing, new type of love, so strong it almost scares you in case someone takes it away. And when you both arrived, I evolved into something else.

Someone else.

Someone, who before they ever met you, never knew they could actually survive on so little sleep. Night after night, sitting up, cuddling you, rocking you back to sleep. Getting up again, battling away imaginary monsters from your curtains, soothing pains in tummies, sore gums….. kissing away the things that wake you from your sleep. But I did.

Someone, who before they ever met you, used to think I’d never be able to do lots of things. I could never manage to get out of the house with one baby in tow… two babies in tow. I could never feed a baby in one hand and make a hasty sandwich for myself with the other. I could never keep one baby entertained, whilst soothing the other off to sleep for a much needed nap. And the ultimate goal, I could never achieve the all time achievement – dual naps. A thing of sheer beauty! But I did.

Someone, who before they ever met you, never really knew too well the pure sense of pride. The feeling may have come now and then at different points in time, if I achieved certain things in life; when I got my first paycheck.. when I took a great photograph. When I married your Dad. And eventually you both arrived. We fought hard to get you, now you’re both here, all I need to do is think of you. I just think of you, and feel overwhelming feelings of pride, as if my heart could burst with it. When it happens, I turn to whoever happens to be near me, and tell them of you. Something you did, something you said. A look you gave, an example of your amazing little personalities. I tell the stories of you, and feel immense pride. I just think of you, and it’s there. I never knew I could do anything so amazing to feel all this pride. But I did.

Someone, who before I ever met you, never really knew fear. Fear of all the things I immediately knew I had to protect you from, and of all the things I know I’ll never be able to shield you from. The hurts and disappointments that are bound to eventually find you. The absolute fear at the thought of you not being my babies anymore and having to send you out into the big scary world – it seems a world away from us at the moment but I’m learning at a rapid pace just how quick this journey is going to fly past. I can still call you my babies now – always – but one day you’ll be brave enough to do things without having to hold my hand. I just hope I can teach you to be strong enough and wise enough for each step of the way. I never knew fear could be this strong at the sheer thought of something. It makes me feel stronger, to know I will do whatever it may take to protect you from as much as I can. I never thought I could take that fear and use it to strengthen my love for you. But I did.

Someone, who before I ever met you, never really knew patience. Ok, honestly, I’m not going to be winning any awards for my levels of patience any time soon. But you have both taught me how to be more patient than I ever knew I could be. You keep us up all night, night after night. You throw tantrums for the most random, ridiculous reasons. You make us try and figure new things out every single day.  You change the rules constantly and consistently, lulling us into a false sense of security feeling like we finally might know what the hell we’re doing, before changing things all over again. You make us watch the same film a million times, or listen to the same song on repeat every hour and somehow we manage to keep our sanity. You bring us right to the edge of that sanity, and yet somehow, at the end of it all, you make us love you even more. I never knew I could display such levels of patience. But I do.

Someone, who before I ever met you, never really knew what hard work was. Hard in the physical sense sometimes, but absolutely hard in the mental sense of the word. Holding it all together, keeping everything going. Working together as a team, learning new things every day and learning new ways to figure things out every single day. I never knew I could work this hard without ever having a day or even an hour off duty. And what’s more, I never knew I could work this hard without ever wanting a day off from it, never wanting a day away from you. But now I do.

All these things you have taught me about myself, all these things I didn’t know I already knew.

Before I ever met you, I never knew I could be this person, so proud of you both, I will carry you always, learn from you always, love you ‘more than all the twinkly stars’…. always.

Who will I be, who have I become?

A Mama.

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Happy Mother’s Day to all of us!

In particular, to my sister Katie and my sister in law Joanne, who both celebrate their first Mother’s Day tomorrow after Joanne gave birth to my gorgeous niece Emma on the 15th of July 2017, and my little sister Katie gave birth to my beautiful nephew Liam on 26th February 2018. Welcome to the world Emma & Liam! I can’t wait to learn new things from each of you too as an Auntie. No doubt your cousins Rian & Alex will be on hand to teach you both the tricks of the trade in torturing… I mean teaching…your parents of all the adventures waiting for them.

 

 

Beautiful Boy
John Lennon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Too Shall Pass

I remember during one particularly tough phase of Rian’s first few months when he had colic, someone said to me ‘This too shall pass’ – and of course it does. I see it quite often in parenting groups; someone will ask for advice on dealing with some tricky new hurdle and usually all we can say is, hang in there, it’s just a phase, this too shall pass!

But do we ever stop to remember that the good things too shall pass? The little stages we love, their little quirks, the new thing they’ve discovered they can do…they change so fast because life is busy passing and we’re constantly just trying to catch up with ourselves. All of the little things they do that may seem inconsequential at the time, you might not even notice them. But I’ve only been a parent now for two years and already I want it to slow down. I want to remember all the little things about them that make me cry with laughter, or cry with frustration.  The things that make my heart want to jump out of my chest with pride and love. All of it.

Recently I was asked by a friend of mine to help put into words a way to describe his new venture in photography – a documentary style ‘day in the life’. While doing it, it made me focus on my own life with my two boys. And it made me realise I seem to be in a constant state of waiting for things to pass. Waiting for Rian’s colic to pass, waiting for his tantrum to calm, waiting for Alex to settle for the night so I might get a few hours sleep myself. I don’t mean to sound like I don’t enjoy all this – of course I do. But I realised that I hardly ever stop to actually look around me, to appreciate fully and more often just what it is we have been given. Especially since there was a time when we thought we’d never have any of this at all when we were told we’d need IVF. It’s always thinking of what job needs to get done next, what dinner needs to be cooked, what day the next round of vaccinations need to be given, the next time one is due a feed and one is due a dinner.

So I decided to stop and look, and started writing. When they’re all grown up, what will I want to remember?

How things feel. The softness of Alex’s little baby cheek, like a soft downy feather. The little grip of his whole hand clutching my thumb. Those little razorblade fingernails that seem to grow at a rate of knots and terrify me in trying to get them cut! The feel of Rian’s little arms wrapped around my neck giving me a ‘huggy’,  the drool that falls on my chest when he falls asleep cuddled into me. His little curls against my face when we snuggle in under the blanket to read a book, and the sticky little hands that chase me hysterically when they’re covered in the residue of his favourite snack of grapes and yoghurt.

 

 

How things sound. The gentle little sucky noise of Alex’s soother as he drifts off for a snooze. The sound of Rian singing at 6am about Gruffalos and trains and having adventures with Woody and Buzz. ‘To finnty…and bond!’ ‘There’s a sake in a b-oot!’ The sound Rian makes when I know he’s working up to a tantrum, and the swift noise I make in an effort to distract him from getting there! The sound of his little feet hopping out of bed when he’s supposed to be asleep and pattering across the hall. And best of all, the sound of Alex’s gurgly little giggles and warbly chats, and the beautiful sound of Rian’s belly laugh, so hard that tears run down his red little cheeks.

How things smell. The gorgeous new baby smell that still just about lingers from Alex. The milky drooly smell that comes from him after a feed. I could breathe that in all day. The lovely smell from Rian’s baby shampoo, and the smell of his bubble bath that he loves splashing around in. That unmistakable whiff that you knew was inevitable when he wolfed in all that fruit for lunch… ok ok maybe this isn’t something I’ll miss too much of when it’s over! And yet somehow, yes, I think I will because it’s part and parcel of who they are now, and I know it won’t always be this way.

One of Rian’s favourite things in life at the moment is Toy Story, and in particular, the third one. At the end of the movie Andy is heading off to college and is getting ready to leave. His mother walks into his empty room, all packed up, and gets emotional. She hugs him and says, ‘I just wish I could be with you always.’

And that’s my wish too, so much! It’s hard now to imagine them both old enough to be going to college, and I’m sure in some ways I’ll be only too delighted to get two smelly teenagers out of my hair, but obviously the day will come when they’ll be old enough to not need me anymore. Well, I hope they’ll always need me in some ways! Hopefully if I do this job right, they’ll want to keep me in their lives just as much as I’ll want them in mine.

 

 

I want to be able to look back, and still feel all those things, and the things still yet to come. To remember how things are, how they were, and how they will be. To be ever thankful that we were given the chance we thought we’d never have, to be their parents, and cherish them always, because as I’ve realised to be true, This Too Shall Pass.

 

*Huge thank you to Johannes for the amazing, and much treasured photographs of our little family; a day in our life.